Van Wisdom: Caring for Your Tree

Trees do some impressive things for us – so we should do something for them right? Trees clean the air of carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen necessary for human life. They improve soil quality, provide shade, prevent erosion, and support wildlife and ecosystems the world over. All of these amazing feats are only possible when a tree is healthy. Yale School of Forestry did a study that concluded trees in distress or decline can actually adversely affect the environment. So, let’s go over a couple of the most common things we see that causes stressed trees and measures you can take to keep your trees healthy.

  • Plant the tree properly and at the right height! One of the biggest issues is planting your tree too deep. Often a tree comes from the nursery with mulch or soil up against the root flare from years of cultivating weeds with mechanical tools. Pull back that material and set the root flare at grade. When you plant, we of course recommend using VW Planting Mix; it has peatmoss to help retain moisture, bark fines to condition the soil, compost to add organic material to the existing soil and manure to give it a little extra jump. Speaking of ‘jump,’ use VW’s JumpStart to get a 2-year warranty and a great root stimulator that we know works – we’ve seen it! The other thing we often see is that people leave the burlap and the wire cage on their purchased tree. I have removed trees that were planted 20 years ago and firsthand witnessed that the burlap did NOT decompose, and the roots are all tangled in the wire cage and never put out those feeder roots to the drip line. Our crews are taught the Van Wisdom way and that’s why anything installed by us has a 2-year warranty.


  • Do not mulch against the trunk! I see what we call ‘mulch volcanos’ all over. This is one of the worse things for your tree. The bark is not meant to be in the dark and suffocated. Over time the bark thinks it needs roots, so it sends out something called adventitious roots. These are small feeder roots that take up water and nutrients but only from a small area. Eventually the real roots which support the tree and feed it are sent a message that they are no longer needed and it’s downhill from there.


  • KEEP THE WEED WHACKER AWAY! When you install a tree in a lawn area, the ring around it is not only for pretty mulch but it’s for protection from you or your lawn guy who does 20MPH on his riding mower. When Van Wilgen’s plants a tree, we create a ring around the tree to help keep water where the roots are at the time of planting, but the other main reason is to make sure there is a separation between the tree and the lawn. Banging into the trunk of the tree with the mower and/or weed whacker damages the most important part of the tree’s bark. That outside layer of bark carries all the water and nutrients up to the leaves. The tree can heal itself from all most anything, but weekly hits from power tools is too much to handle. Remember, trees don’t have legs so they figure out how to survive in the environment they are in.


Have questions on keeping your tree healthy and fixing the most carbon it can? We are always happy to share our Van Wisdom!